Multiple Teams · Senior running backs keys to Hillsboro playoff journey

Hillsboro running back Micheal Keller tries to elude Farmington defender Nathaniel Link during last Friday’s district semifinal. Keller rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown in the Hawks’ 48-42 victory.

Ted Howell photo

By Russell Korando

Friday football primer


Cape Girardeau Central (7-4) at Hillsboro (8-3), Friday, 7 p.m.

Last meeting: (Nov. 4, 2016) Cape Central quarterback Kway’Chon Chisom threw for five touchdown passes and ran for three more as the Tigers overwhelmed the Hawks 63-24. Hillsboro running back Micheal Keller, who had rushed for 447 yards and scored seven touchdowns the week before against Sikeston, was suffering from a hip injury and was a spectator for the game against Cape Central. Hillsboro’s Luke Skaggs rushed for 181 yards in the loss. 

Series history in this decade: This is the fourth district championship meeting between the Hawks and Tigers since 2012. Cape Central has won the last three games. Hillsboro beat the Tigers 28-20 when it won its last district crown in 2012.

What to look for on Friday: Hillsboro showed a lot of moxie coming back against Farmington in the district semifinals last week. The Knights led the Hawks twice by two TDs but Hillsboro scored on all three of its possessions in the second half to win 48-42. Skaggs (182 yards rushing) and Keller (147) were the Hawks’ two leading rushers and senior Joe Garner scored four TDs. Quarterback Tyler Isaacson scored the game-winning TD with 1:36 to play in the game. Chisom was a senior last season, so the Hawks don’t have to contend with him. Cape Central had twice as many first downs (14-7) as North County in last week’s 36-16 win over the Raiders.

Sports editor says: In my 20-plus years of covering prep football, I’ve never seen a team as deep and talented at running back as Hillsboro is this year. Garner, Isaacson, Keller, Skaggs and Joe Gregory are all seniors. All have played meaningful roles in getting the Hawks back to the district final. Now that the offensive line is battle-tested and Isaacson is showing more confidence throwing the ball, Hillsboro has the tools to end the Tigers’ four-year reign as district champion. However, I can’t help but think the Hawks are going to get burned eventually because they don’t kick extra points and rely too much on going for the two-point conversion. They left eight points on the field against Farmington after missing four conversions. Cape Central 42, Hillsboro 36.